One Size Doesn’t Fit All—Redesigning Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a topic that keeps many corporate managers up at night. Engaged employees are more productive and are more likely to stay longer with the company, saving the company money and creating a strong corporate culture. While a lot has been written on the topic, and there are many schools of thought on how to engage employees, according to a recent Gallup poll only 31% of US employees are fully engaged in their jobs.

At FSG, our clients frequently ask how a corporation’s societal engagement programs—employee giving, volunteering, sustainability initiatives, and shared value initiatives, among others—can help increase employee engagement. In a project we worked on recently with a multinational food company, we explored the question: How can societal engagement programs be designed to help employees feel more connected to the company, their colleagues, their communities, and the customers they seek to serve?

The first step we took was to define employee engagement more clearly. Just as different customer segments have different needs, employees also have different perspectives on how to create societal impact in the way that is most meaningful to them. Keeping these different perspectives in mind while designing different engagement programs allows CSR teams or corporate foundations to create avenues for employees to participate in ways they find most meaningful, maximizing the societal impact as well as employee engagement opportunities.

To illustrate this idea, we developed 3 simple employee personas to inform how to incorporate employee engagement into the design of societal impact initiatives:

  • Community-oriented leader: These employees are most passionate about giving back to their local community and seek opportunities to give or volunteer on issues in their neighborhood or city, like participating in a local river clean-up or fund-raising drive.
  • Expert volunteer: Employees fitting this category believe that they can contribute towards creating societal impact by using job-related skills, like a marketing professional helping a non-profit launch a new campaign or a supply chain expert helping a local food bank improve their logistics.
  • Social intrapreneur: These employees seek to create societal impact through their job, say by designing a new manufacturing process that reduces energy usage or by helping to develop a local workforce to support a new, large-scale capital investment.  

The above categories are not meant to represent every situation. More nuanced breakdowns by geography, business segments, age, or other categories also may be relevant. But understanding the prevailing segments in your organization can lead to new insights in designing and implementing engagement programs.

Which local causes are of most interest to community-oriented leaders? Can skills-based volunteers be used to support charities the company works with? What is the best way to design programs for social intrapreneurs to allow them to use their talents for social innovation to the fullest?

This customized approach can create a virtuous cycle where companies increase engagement by creating opportunities to be involved in what employees care about the most, leading to greater societal impact, which in turn engages employees more deeply as they see the impact of their efforts. It’s a cycle through which employees can move from being engines of business productivity and innovation to also becoming engines of social innovation and impact.

How has your company approached employee engagement when designing societal initiatives? What has worked? What has been challenging? What have you learned? 

Related resource: Simplifying Strategy: A Practical Toolkit for Corporate Societal Engagement >

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